Laws of Associations
The 1992 Emergency Law, accompanied by government directives and practices, impose some limits on the constitutional right of association. The Law of Civil Harmony, as part of President Bouteflika’s policy of national reconciliation, was presented to the parliament on July 13, 1999 and later approved via referendum on September 16, 1999, but the State of Emergency remains in effect, despite the passage by referendum of a “Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation " on September 29, 2005. The charter provides tangible measures for stopping bloodshed and establishing peace in Algeria. It calls for suspending all legal prosecutions against all those who halted their armed activities and surrendered to the authorities as of January 13, 2000, the deadline stated in the "Law of Civil Harmony.” Persons excluded from the amnesty law are those who committed mass murders, rapes, or assaults with explosives on public places. The draft charter also provides for annulment of legal pursuits against Algerians inside and outside Algeria who were sentenced in absentia and who willingly appear in person before the relevant courts.
The Ministry of Interior must approve all political parties before they may be established and licenses all non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The ministry is also empowered to dissolve any political party. The law prohibits unions from associating with political parties and also prohibits unions from receiving funds from foreign sources. The courts are empowered to dissolve unions.
The Organic Law Governing Political Parties, as amended on 6 March 1997, is one of the basic laws on associative activity in Algeria. Article 3 of this law states that political parties, in their activities, must refrain from using Islamic, Arab, and Amazigh (Berber) identities for partisan purpose. Political parties must comply with the principles of the 1954 revolution, reject violence, respect individual and collective freedoms and human rights, work towards consolidation of national unity, and adhere to political pluralism. Parties are also prohibited from having contacts with foreign entities, trade unions, and civic associations. The largest party, the Front of National Liberation (FLN), has dominated the political leadership of Algeria since the revolution, though in 2003 it was threatened with schism as some members of the party supported President Bouteflika and others followed former Prime Minister Benflis, who, after being ousted from his post by Bouteflika, was elected Secretary General in March and chosen to be the FLN’s presidential candidate in October 2003. Under Algerian law, the administrative chamber of the Court of Algiers declared the October 2003 congress of the Front of National Liberation null and void and froze the FLN’s accounts. This judicial intervention in the internal regulation of the party was undertaken on behalf of the pro-Bouteflika faction of the FLN and illustrates the lack of meaningful separation of power in Algeria.
The Ministry of Interior and Local Collectivities supervises the activities of Algerian associations. Workers are required to obtain government approval to establish a union. The 1990 Law on Labor Unions requires the Ministry of Labor to approve a union application within 30 days.
Associations and Unions
The main Algerian trade associations are the Association of the Chief Executive Officers (ACEO), the General Confederation of the Algerian Economic Operators (COGEA), and the Algerian Confederation of Businessmen (CAP). Other economic interest groups are the Algerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Algeria. There is also a multiplicity of Algerian associations organized abroad.
There is an umbrella labor confederation, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), which encompasses national syndicates that are specialized by sector. There are also some autonomous unions, such as syndicates for Air Algeria pilots (SPLA), airport technicians (SNTMA), and teachers (CNEX). The Autonomous Syndicates Confederation (CSA) currently has an application filed with the ministry of labor. The CSA continues to function without official status and did not, for instance, follow the general strike called by the UGTA in February 2003.
The most active independent human rights groups are the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and the Algerian League for Human Rights (ALHR). The National Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH) was established by the government in 1992 to report human rights violations to the authorities. It prepares an annual report with recommendations to the government.
Media and Government Regulations
The Ministry of Information and Culture is involved in regulating the freedom of the press. A 1990 law specifies that freedom of speech must respect “individual dignity, the imperatives of foreign policy, and the national defense.” In 1994, the government issued a decree that independent newspapers could print security information only from official government bulletins carried by the government-controlled Algerian Press Service (APS). Compliance with the government directive varies among independent newspapers. Despite amendments to the Penal Code in 2001 threatening journalists with heavy fines and up to 24 months in jail for defamation or "insult" of government figures, the press is relatively free.